As Seen in “A Better You” in the Orlando Sentinel by Christine VanDyk
The 80-year-old man was in unbearable pain. Unable to stand for very long, his knees had become bone on bone. That was when he went to see Dr. Juliet Burry of the Pain Management Institute & Aesthetics in Altamonte Springs.
“After a stem cell treatment on both knees this patient was up and walking again,” she said. “He actually went to Sea World with his family and was able to go for the entire day. That’s what is so exciting about today’s pain management options. People who are approaching immobility are able to enjoy their lives again.”
According to a Gallop-Healthways poll, 47 percent of Americans surveyed reported living with chronic pain. Nearly a third had neck or back pain, 26 percent said they experienced knee or leg pain and 18 percent had another condition that resulted in chronic pain. In fact, the reports show that chronic pain is so wide-spread it effects more Americans than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined. Economically that translates into more than $600 billion a year in treatments and lost productivity costs according to the Institute of Medicine.
“Regenerative treatment procedures, like stem cell therapy, are able to give real hope, even to patients who’ve seen other doctors and therapists,” Dr. Burry said. “It used to be that once you had arthritis it was yours to keep. Now, we can potentially reverse the process. I’ve never been able to tell patients that before.”
Stem cell therapy: (which is not covered by insurance) uses mesenchymal adult stem cells which are harvested from a patient’s fat or bone marrow. Together with platelet rich plasma (PRP), a component in the blood that contains hundreds of proteins called growth factors, the combination has been shown to improve arthritic conditions and stimulate the healing process in joints, tendons and ligaments.
The process was originally made famous by athletes like Tiger Woods who turned to the procedure for problems like sprained knees and chronic tendon injuries. Today, it’s being used to allow patients to heal themselves with their own biological material.
The procedure, which is done in a doctor’s office, is very cutting edge but, according to Dr. Burry, “has enough data behind it to support its claims of success.”
While she is quick to point out that “in the world of pain management, there is no magic pill or treatment,” Dr. Burry claims that with a multi-model approach this new technique has the potential to “give hope where once there was none.”
In the past, patients relied on pills or surgery for relief from pain.
“But patient’s want something beyond a prosthetic,” she said. “They want a knee that lasts as long as they do. And as for pills, they often just mask the pain and have their own side effects to manage.”
According to Dr. Burry, “pain management is also managing expectations” and that means an honest explanation of what is possible and a commitment to following the treatment plan.
“If you’re sedentary, you will have pain,” she says. “You have to get moving. In addition, there’s no substitute for good nutrition, proper sleep and exercise. But if you’re committed to your treatment, we can provide significant pain relief. That’s real hope.”
So what should patients look for in their pain management treatment? Dr. Burry recommends asking the following questions when seeking medical help.
• Ask what are all of your options.
• Ask what are the long-term effects of the procedure.
• Ask what you can do to maximize the benefits of the procedure.
• Research the success rate of the procedure on your own. However, keep in mind that just because you found it on the web doesn’t always mean it’s true.
In addition, come prepared for your visit with the following information:
• Provide a detailed explanation of how the injury occurred.
• Be articulate about the type and severity of pain. For example, what is the sensation like? Is it tingling, tearing or a deep ache? To diagnose the condition, it’s important to define the pain.
• Be specific about all of the therapies and medications you’ve tried.
• Provide records from past physicians and therapists.
“I remember when the average male lived to 74,” Dr. Burry says. “Not much thought was given to what to do beyond retirement because most people didn’t expect to live much longer. Today, people are living into their 90s and there is an acknowledgment that patients don’t want to live for years with unresolved pain.”
And it’s not just older individuals that are suffering. Car accidents and sports injuries are effecting the lives of younger individuals. People in their 40s and 50s are seeing spinal and orthopedic pain from repetitive use, trauma and work-related injuries.
“There are people out there who are living with acute pain,” Dr. Burry says. “The problem is that it can lead to further injury and even loss of function. But when they come into my office, we can determine where they are in treatment and spring board from there to develop real, promising options. There is a lot of science going on today and a pain-free existence is becoming more and more possible with each new discovery.”